Bolts 'Backers Blasted by the Broncos

The Chargers placed an emphasis on getting off to a fast start this season. Instead, the Chargers are looking up at the Oakland Raiders in the standings. Most of San Diego's problems lie on the defensive side of the ball, where the absence of Shawne Merriman is palpable. However, the Chargers are missing another linebacker even more.

The Chargers defense was frustrated in Week 1 when it had an opportunity to win the game and failed, as Jake Delhomme found Dante Rosario with zeros on the clock. The pain was twice as prominent in Week 2, when the defense had two chances to secure victory in the final 30 seconds. Instead, the Broncos converted a fourth down and a two-point conversion and came away with a 39-38 victory.

The common theme with each of those potential game-ending plays: The Chargers allowed completions over the middle of the field. Against the Panthers, Matt Wilhelm and Eric Weddle both narrowly missed getting a hand on the game-winning score. Against the Broncos, Wilhelm and Weddle alternated whiffs; Wilhelm allowed the touchdown while Weddle gave up the two-point conversion.

It's easy to critique the Chargers' inside linebackers for their lack of skills in pass coverage. Wilhelm has been involved in two back-breaking plays and Derek Smith has yet to get his hands on a pass. It's equally easy to forget that San Diego is playing without Stephen Cooper, who is the best coverage linebacker on the team.

No one thought much of Cooper's suspension at the time it was announced, given that the Chargers had Smith and Anthony Waters waiting in the wings. But Cooper has been missed and the Chargers would likely be 2-0 with him in the lineup.

Of course, the absence of Shawne Merriman was also significant on Sunday. Jay Cutler dropped back to pass 50 times and was only sacked one time. Merriman's replacement, Jyles Tucker, finished with two tackles and no sacks.

Oddly enough, Merriman might have helped his stock by not playing on Sunday. It has been assumed Merriman will not be re-signed when he becomes a free agent after the 2009 season, as the Chargers have that money earmarked for Antonio Cromartie. However, Cromartie had a disastrous game in Denver, finishing with as many penalties (three) as tackles and dropping an interception.

If Cromartie does not revert to the form he showed last season, A.J. Smith will have a difficult time keeping Cromartie and letting Merriman walk.

Regardless, the Chargers will have to make due as-is for at least the next two weeks. Norv Turner may make a few personnel changes -- how Waters remains tied to the inactive list remains one of life's great mysteries –- but most of the improvement must come from within. If it doesn't happen in Week 3, it may be too little too late.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.


SD Super Chargers Top Stories

","mobileBody":"The Chargers defense was frustrated in Week 1 when it had an opportunity to win the game and failed, as Jake Delhomme found Dante Rosario with zeros on the clock. The pain was twice as prominent in Week 2, when the defense had two chances to secure victory in the final 30 seconds. Instead, the Broncos converted a fourth down and a two-point conversion and came away with a 39-38 victory.

The common theme with each of those potential game-ending plays: The Chargers allowed completions over the middle of the field. Against the Panthers, Matt Wilhelm and Eric Weddle both narrowly missed getting a hand on the game-winning score. Against the Broncos, Wilhelm and Weddle alternated whiffs; Wilhelm allowed the touchdown while Weddle gave up the two-point conversion.

It's easy to critique the Chargers' inside linebackers for their lack of skills in pass coverage. Wilhelm has been involved in two back-breaking plays and Derek Smith has yet to get his hands on a pass. It's equally easy to forget that San Diego is playing without Stephen Cooper, who is the best coverage linebacker on the team.

No one thought much of Cooper's suspension at the time it was announced, given that the Chargers had Smith and Anthony Waters waiting in the wings. But Cooper has been missed and the Chargers would likely be 2-0 with him in the lineup.

Of course, the absence of Shawne Merriman was also significant on Sunday. Jay Cutler dropped back to pass 50 times and was only sacked one time. Merriman's replacement, Jyles Tucker, finished with two tackles and no sacks.

Oddly enough, Merriman might have helped his stock by not playing on Sunday. It has been assumed Merriman will not be re-signed when he becomes a free agent after the 2009 season, as the Chargers have that money earmarked for Antonio Cromartie. However, Cromartie had a disastrous game in Denver, finishing with as many penalties (three) as tackles and dropping an interception.

If Cromartie does not revert to the form he showed last season, A.J. Smith will have a difficult time keeping Cromartie and letting Merriman walk.

Regardless, the Chargers will have to make due as-is for at least the next two weeks. Norv Turner may make a few personnel changes -- how Waters remains tied to the inactive list remains one of life's great mysteries –- but most of the improvement must come from within. If it doesn't happen in Week 3, it may be too little too late.



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